For Educators: Simple Steps for Mapping Your Schoolyard

 

Now that school is underway, you may be trying to incorporate what you gained from participating in Taking Education Outside the School Walls. We covered a lot of ground and I hope everyone walked away with a few nuggets of worthwhile information.

Let’s circle back to how valuable it can be to scout your school grounds – all of it – gravel, pavement, grass, trees, playgrounds, and the space around the school. Intentional observations on how and where you can teach outside. Here are the simple steps to do so.

Mapping Your Outdoor Areas

Grab a few items:

  • Printed view of your school grounds
  • Notepad
  • Pencil
  • List of topics you cover in all subjects

Here is an example of an Outdoor Map I’ve created. Start walking around your school and find spots where your whole class would be able to congregate as a group. Find multiple environments: shaded or covered areas; covered by trees or buildings in case it rains, locations out in the sun, and maybe a mix of them all. What does the area look like around these spaces? Are there playgrounds, trees, exposed soil, grass, prairie, pond, asphalt, hills, and landscaped areas? You do not need huge open green areas to teach outside, work with whatever assets your school has to offer. Consider how you can bring your lessons outside and teach in the space you have before you. Need materials? Students can carry materials outside – this gives them both purpose and responsibility.

Matching Lessons with Outdoor Spaces

What lessons and topics do you cover with your students throughout the year? Are you working on addition or subtraction? Maybe you could you use sidewalk blocks, pine cones, trees, or work on that worksheet while sitting under a tree. If they are learning about insects seek a spot in the school yard where plants grow or ant hills spring forth, bring magnifying glasses out to explore these locations. Is there a great shade tree to read to your class beneath?

If learning about creating graphs, you can count birds during different times of the day. Are there spaces to take a sensory walk? Students can learn about human impact, plant identification, and soil all within your school yard. What material is your parking lot made of? In exploring this you can you teach about different surfaces, permeability, how water interacts with and absorbs (or doesn’t!) through them. You can explore the sun and moon while learning about shadows coming from any part of the building, structure, or landscaping.

Silent sit spots are a great way to make seasonal observations, and students can learn about how the natural world changes (what we call phenology) by going back to the same spot multiple times. Is there a pond nearby…if not you can observe puddles at a safe parking lot location where water pools. If learning about animals you can take students on an observation walk. Additionally, outdoor space is great for brain break movement activities. After all, there’s a reason why recess takes place outside!

You can move your teaching outside in many ways – one way is just to determine a new environment for teaching to take place and the second step is to incorporate that environment into your lessons.

If you have yet to map your school yard so you can have a quick reference to look at through the year, I highly recommend that you create one. It is easier to look at your map and remember spots then try to do it on the spot before a lesson. Enjoy whatever outdoor space you have!

Written by Rachel Feerick, the Riveredge Cedarburg School District Scientist in Residence

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Butterfly-weed blooming at Riveredge Nature Center

Butterfly-weed blooming at Riveredge Nature Center.

In Bloom

Bull Head Lily
Bladderwort
Fragrant White Water Lily
Hoary Alyssum
Yarrow
Spreading Dogbane
Heal All
Black Eyed Susan
Enchanter’s Nightshade
Wild Leek
Fringed Loosestrife
Butterfly Weed
Indian Hemp
Rough Fruited Cinquefoil
Bergamot
Queen of the Prairie
Cowbane
Marsh Hedge Nettle
Pointed Leaved Tick Trefoil
Shrubby St John’s Wort
Hoary Vervain
Blue Giant Hyssop
Lead Plant
Culver’s Root
Grey Headed Coneflower
Purple Prairie Clover
Prairie Dock
Canada Tick Trefoil
Flowering Spurge
Compass Plant
Orange Jewelweed
Wood Nettle
Pickerel Weed
White Prairie Clover
Wild Petunia
Purple Coneflower
Agrimony
Lopseed
Dotted Mint
Rosinweed
Virginia Mountain Mint
Cup Plant
Whorled Milkweed
Gayfeather
Nodding Wild Onion
Starry Campion
Spotted Joe Pye Weed
Blue Vervain
Rattlesnake Master
Carpenter’s Square Figwort
Canada Goldenrod
Small Purple Fringed Orchid
Clustered Poppy Mallow

Pink Plumes of Queen of the Prairie at Riveredge.

Flowers In Bud

Large Leaved Aster
Showy Blazing Star

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Turk’s Cap Lily in the sunshine.

In Bloom

Bladderwort
Fragrant White Water Lily
Hoary Alyssum
Yarrow
Spreading Dogbane
Pale Purple Coneflower
Harebell
Heal All
Black Eyed Susan
Wild Quinine
False Sunflower
Enchanter’s Nightshade
Wild Leek
Fringed Loosestrife
Butterfly Weed
Indian Hemp
Common Milkweed
Rough Fruited Cinquefoil
Bergamot
Turk’s Cap Lily
Queen of the Prairie
Cowbane
Marsh Hedge Nettle
Pointed Leaved Tick Trefoil
Shrubby St. John’s Wort
Hoary Vervain
Blue Giant Hyssop
Swamp Milkweed
Lead Plant
Culver’s Root
Grey Headed Coneflower
Purple Prairie Clover
Canada Tick Trefoil
Flowering Spurge
Compass Plant
Orange Jewelweed
Wood Nettle
Pickerel Weed
Tuberous Indian Plantain
White Prairie Clover
Purple Coneflower
Agrimony
Lopseed
Dotted Mint
Rosinweed
Mad Dog Skullcap
Virginia Mountain Mint
Evening Primrose
Cup Plant
Whorled Milkweed
Gayfeather
Nodding Wild Onion
Starry Campion

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Black-eyed Susan at Riveredge Nature Center

In Bloom

Lyre leaved Rock Cress
Wild Columbine
Bullhead Lily
Bladderwort
Prairie Phlox
Canada Anemone
Angelica
Tall Meadow Rue
Fragrant White Water Lily
Spiderwort
Lance Leaved Coreopsis
Hairy Beardtongue
Blue Wild Indigo
White Wild Indigo
Hoary Alyssum
Yarrow
Prairie Golden Aster
Bluets
Alumroot
Black Snakeroot
Cow Parsnip
Wild Garlic
Spreading Dogbane
Pale Purple Coneflower
Tall Beardtongue
White Beardtongue
Poke Milkweed
Harebell
Healall
Pale Spike Lobelia
Black Eyed Susan
Wild Quinine
Wild Four O’Clock
False Sunflower
Enchanter’s Nightshade
Wild Leek
Fringed Loosestrife
Marsh Phlox
Butterfly Weed
Pretty Bedstraw
Indian Hemp
Common Milkweed
Downy Wood Mint

Purple Coneflowers at Riveredge Nature Center

Flowers In Bud

Prairie Dock
Rattlesnake Master
Purple Coneflower
Sweet Joe Pye Weed

Volunteer Spotlight: Curiosity Driven by Community, Flowers, and Phenology

Pat Fairchild has been a volunteer for more than 15 years at Riveredge. Back then, she was seeking a flexible volunteering opportunity that worked with her hectic work schedule. The Tuesday Habitat Healer crew was the perfect fit. Whenever able, she’d show up to plant seedlings, snip invasive species, or help with other outdoor conservation work.

Curiosity Leads to New Knowledge and Skills

In order to learn about the flora she saw, Pat asked a lot of questions from fellow volunteers and staff members. “Everyone is so helpful and generous with their diverse knowledge,” says Pat. Being a visual learner, she started photocopying pictures of the species she saw blooming along the trails and posting the pictures on the Visitor’s Center wall for others to learn from as well. But one day a copy store employee told her that wasn’t allowed due to copyright…even if it was for educational purposes. So Pat bought a camera and began shooting and developing her own photographs to post on the wall.

While the Visitor’s Center was closed in spring due to Covid-19 concerns, Pat continued her weekly wildflower walks and we’ve been posting her phenological flower observations to the Riveredge Blog. “It’s great – I get out of the house, see the flowers and get some exercise. I’m a person who needs a purpose…I don’t just go out walking for no reason,” says Pat. “The flowers help me have a reason to get outdoors.”

Connection to Community and the Land

In addition to being a Habitat Healer, Pat has also been an interpretive naturalist and helps us raise Lake Sturgeon. Additionally, Pat also makes the time to volunteer with Interfaith, the American Cancer Society, and the Saukville Community Food Pantry.

The combination of community and love for the land is what keeps Pat coming back to Riveredge. “There are so many volunteers at Riveredge who have dedicated so much time and effort to making this place what it is – some of the people who started this place are still involved!” Pat says. “This land gets in your bones,” she smiles, “And you keep coming back.”

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Spiderwort can be seen throughout Riveredge prairies.

In Bloom

Stoneseed
Bullhead Lily
Blue Flag Iris
Bladderwort
Canada Anemone
Angelica
Tall Meadow Rue
Fragrant White Water Lily
Spiderwort
Lance Leaved Coreopsis
Hairy Beardtongue
Blue Wild Indigo
White Wild Indigo
Hoary Alyssum
Yarrow
Prairie Golden Aster
Bluets
Alumroot
Common Cinquefoil
Cow Parsnip
Large Flowered Beardtongue
Wild Garlic
Spreading Dogbane
Northern Bedstraw
Pale Purple Coneflower
Tall Beardtongue
White Avens
Poke Milkweed
Harebell
Heal All
Pale Spike Lobelia
Black Eyed Susan
Wild Quinine
Wild Four O’Clock

Pale Purple Coneflower

Flower in Bud

Wild Leek

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now. A notation of -P means that the flower has moved past peak bloom stage.

Jack in the Pulpit

Blooming

False Rue Anemone
Blue Violet
Wild Ginger
Prairie Smoke
Swamp Buttercup
Jack in the Pulpit
Kidney Leaved Buttercup
Wood Betony
Hoary Puccoon
Wild Blue Phlox
Miterwort
Early Meadow Rue
Heart Leaved Golden Alexander
Wild Geranium
Gooseberry
Cleaver’s Bedstraw
Lyre leaved Rock Cress
Wild Columbine
Kitten Tails
Golden Alexander
Thyme leaved Speedwell
Mayapple
Bastard Toadflax
Red Baneberry
Grove Sandwort
Stoneseed
Cursed Crowfoot
Robin’s Plantain
Wild Lily of the Valley
Tower Mustard
Solomon’s Seal
Small Yellow Lady’s Slipper
Wild Strawberry
Shooting Stars
Blue Eyed Grass
Cream Wild Indigo
False Solomon’s Seal
Dwarf Ginseng
Fringed Puccoon
White Baneberry
Virginia Waterleaf
Yellow Pimpernel
Bullhead Lily
Blue Flag Iris
Bladderwort
Sweet Cicely
Swamp Saxifrage
Golden Ragwort
Prairie Phlox

Prairie Smoke at Riveredge Nature Center

Prairie Smoke

Flower Buds Present

Giant Solomon’s Seal
Tall Meadow Rue
Lance Leaved Coreopsis
Feverwort

Lance-leaved Coreopsis

Sprouting/Leaves Present

Lead Plant
Purple Joe Pye Weed
Hog Peanut
Poke Milkweed
White Sage

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now. A notation of -P means that the flower has moved past peak bloom stage.

Wild Ginger flowers can be a challenge to find, generally hidden beneath large, heart-shaped leaves.

Blooming

False Rue Anemone
Dutchman’s Breeches
Marsh Marigold
Blue Violet
Spring Cress
Wild Ginger
Wood Anemone
Prairie Smoke
Swamp Buttercup
Large Flowered Trillium
Jack in the Pulpit-P
Blue Cohosh
Downy Yellow Violet
Kidney Leaved Buttercup
Wood Betony
Hoary Puccoon
Wild Blue Phlox -P
Miterwort
Bellwort
Pussy Toes
Nodding Trillium
Early Meadow Rue
Heart leaved Golden Alexander
Wild Geranium – P
Gooseberry
Common Valerian
Cleaver’s Bedstraw
Goldenseal
Lyre leaved Rock Cress – P
Wild Columbine
Kitten Tails
Golden Alexander
Jacob’s Ladder-P
Red Trillium
Starry False Solomon’s Seal
Thyme leaved Speedwell
Mayapple -P
Bastard Toadflax -P
Red Baneberry
Grove Sandwort
Stoneseed
Cursed Crowfoot
Robin’s Plantain
Wild Lily of the Valley
Tower Mustard
Solomon’s Seal
Small Yellow Lady’s Slipper -P
Wild Strawberry
Shooting Star -P
Blue Eyed Grass
Cream Wild Indigo
False Solomon’s Seal
Dwarf Ginseng-P
Star Flower
Fringed Puccoon -P

Mayapple flowers are hidden beneath those great big leaves.

In Bud

Wild Garlic
Yellow Pimpernel
Yarrow
Prairie Phlox
Blue Wild Indigo

The aptly named Pussy Toes, look akin to a soft, fuzzy feline foot atop a stem.

Sprouting/Leaves Present

Common Milkweed
Large leaved Aster
Stiff Goldenrod
Carrion Flower
Zig Zag Goldenrod
Jewelweed
Wild Quinine
Poison Ivy

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

False Rue Anemone

False Rue Anemone

Blooming

Penn Sedge
Spring Beauty
False Rue Anemone
Dutchman’s Breeches
Marsh Marigold
Blue Violet
Spring Beauty
Wild Ginger
Wood Anemone
Prairie Smoke
Swamp Buttercup
Prairie Buttercup
Large Flowered Trillium
Jack in the Pulpit -P
Blue Cohosh – P
Downy Yellow Violet
Kidney Leaved Buttercup
Wood Betony
Hoary Puccoon
Wild Blue Phlox
Miterwort
Bellwort
Pussy Toes
Nodding Trillium
Early Meadow Rue
Heart Leaved Golden Alexander
Wild Geranium
Gooseberry
Common Valerian
Cleaver’s Bedstraw
Goldenseal
Lyre Leaved Rock Cress
Wild Columbine
Kitten Tails
Golden Alexander
Jacob’s Ladder
Red Trillium
Starry False Solomon’s Seal

Virginia Waterleaf at Riveredge Nature Center

Virginia Waterleaf

Flower Buds Present

Virginia Waterleaf

Pale Purple Coneflower

Sprouting/leaves Present

Stoneseed
Swamp Lousewort
Prairie Dock
Pale Purple Coneflower

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Prairie Smoke

Prairie Smoke

Blooming

Penn Sedge
Bloodroot
Hepatica
Spring Beauty
False Rue Anemone
Cut Leaved Toothwort
Dutchman’s Breeches
Marsh Marigold
White Trout Lily
Blue Violet
Spring Cress
Wild Ginger
Wood Anemone
Prairie Smoke
Swamp Buttercup
Prairie Buttercup
Large Flowered Trillium
Jack in the Pulpit
Blue Cohosh
Downy Yellow Violet
Kidney Leaved Buttercup
Wood Betony
Hoary Puccoon
Wild Blue Phlox
Miterwort
Bellwort

Wild Columbine

Wild Columbine

In Bud

Nodding Trillium
Wild Lily of the Valley
Golden Alexander
Wild Columbine
False Solomon’s Seal

Golden Alexander

Sprouting/Leaves Present

Cow Parsnip
Bedstraws
Goldenseal
Blue Giant Hyssop